Winnipeg’s St. Boniface to divert some patients to other hospitals

Ambulances waiting at St. Boniface Hospital. File / Global News

Long emergency room wait times at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg have sparked plans to begin redirecting patients to other hospitals.

A memo sent to staff from hospital CEO Martine Bouchard on Friday said a “modified EMS RED redirect status” will be implemented in the very near future.

Bouchard noted in the memo a recent incident involving a patient who did not receive timely care.

“Please know that I recognize that you, our nurses, physicians, and other health care professionals, are doing your best to provide the care our patients require under what can only be described as very challenging circumstances,” the memo said. “You have been trained to provide high-quality care, and it is distressing to face obstacles to providing that care. The ongoing pandemic, nursing and other staffing shortages are adding to our challenges.”

Dr. Paul Doucet, emergency physician at St. Boniface, said wait times are unacceptable.

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“I’ve been working at St. Boniface for over 34 years in the emergency department and it’s never been as difficult to see patients as it has been in the last few weeks,” Doucet said. “I’ve seen wait times of 16, 17 hours.”

Read more: Manitoba couple ‘overwhelmed and disillusioned’ by long wait times at Winnipeg hospital

While the modified redirect status being implemented means some patients will be sent to other hospitals, the people who require special care from St. Boniface, such as cardiac services, will still go there.

Redirecting patients helps, but signals trouble, according to Doucet.

“Using this system frequently is another symptom of a poor functioning health care system and lack of capacity,” he said.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) said facilities throughout the region regularly work together to ensure patients are sent to appropriate locations with capacity.

“While walk-up ED volumes will vary by facility, day, and time of day, arrivals by ambulance are able to be managed through the established process of EMS redirect protocols when an individual site is experiencing higher volumes, has a lack of available beds or is impacted by staffing challenges,” a WRHA spokesperson said.

Doucet said he has concerns about the state of the system, as well as an ongoing nursing shortage.

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“Manitobans and patients deserve better than this and it will take significant efforts to turn it around.”

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